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June 18 , 2010

Surgery rule dropped for passport gender change

Washington, D.C.--The Obama administration’s State Department gave transgender Americans a special Pride month gift, easing requirements for changing gender on passports.

The policy was announced on June 9, and took effect the next day.

In the past, transgender people had to provide documents proving that they had undergone gender reassignment surgery.

Under the new rules, all that is needed is a doctor’s certification that the person has undergone gender transition treatment.

Passports for limited use will also be available to people in the process of transitioning.

The policy also affects the alteration of Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, the equivalent of birth certificates for Americans who were born while their parents were in foreign countries.

The policy change also says that if the appropriate documents are provided, passport officials are forbidden from asking for additional medical information. It also requires officials to refer to the applicant using the appropriate pronoun.

“We want to extend our thanks to the Obama administration, and particularly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for understanding the need for this change and then responding to make travel safer for transgender people,” said National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling. “This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey echoed her comments.

“By issuing this policy change, the State Department has recognized that transgender people need to be able to travel and live with identity documents that accurately reflect who they are. The old policy regularly put transgender people at increased risk for harassment and violence,” she said. “This update will go a long way to rectify this problem.”

“We are absolutely thrilled about this change,” said Kristina Wertz, legal director of the Transgender Law Center. “The new policy is the first at the federal level to reflect a fuller understanding of the realities of transgender lives by recognizing that gender identity is not dependent upon anatomy or the ability to access expensive medical treatment.”

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